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Operational guideline: Assessing, monitoring and documenting the disposition of non-compliant food

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1. Purpose

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) inspection staff on assessing, monitoring and documenting the disposition of food that may pose a health risk or is unsafe, hazardous or otherwise non-compliant to the Safe Food for Canadians Act, the Food and Drugs Act or their regulations. This document is not intended to cover disposition under section 123 of the Safe Food Canadians Regulations.

This document is intended to be used in conjunction with other guidance documents as referenced in section 3.0.

The guidance outlined below should be used whenever CFIA becomes aware of a non-compliant food identified, for example, during a food safety investigations, recall effectiveness checks, complaints follow up or a product inspection, regardless of whether the food is in distribution or not.

2. Authorities

The inspection powers, control actions and enforcement actions authorized by the above legislation are identified and explained in the Operational guideline – Food regulatory response guidelines.

3. Reference documents

4. Definitions

Unless specified below, definitions are located in the:


Any action taken on an affected food to bring it into compliance or to remove it from the Canadian marketplace, such as relabelling, reworking, culling, exporting and destruction

5. Acronyms

Acronyms are spelled out the first time they are used and are consolidated in the Food business line acronyms list.

6. Operational guideline

The regulated party is responsible for ensuring that non-compliant or unsafe food does not enter or re-enter the food distribution chain.

The CFIA inspector reviews the method of disposition proposed by the regulated party to ensure this method will not pose a risk of contamination to current and future food, animal feed systems and water sources (for example, comply with municipal by-laws for waste disposal and regulations concerning animal feed). The regulated party is responsible for implementing the method of disposal authorized by CFIA.

It is recommended that the inspector consult feed advisory staff when evaluating if a disposition method will impact the animal feed system. When considering disposition methods for imported food that has been ordered removed or destroyed pursuant to SFCA 32(1), consult the Operational procedure: Ordering removal, or destruction of unlawful food imports.

6.1 Assessing the proposed disposition method

When a non-compliance is identified, the regulated party may need to take corrective actions to address the non-compliance or CFIA may order the food to be removed from Canada (in the case of an imported food) or destroyed. If multiple options are available to correct the non-compliance, the regulated party may propose a method of disposition. If that is the case, perform the following steps:

  1. Consider any factors that may impact product disposition options such as the factors indicated in Table 1.
Table 1: Scenarios that may limit or influence the disposition of a non-compliant food and the actions that should be taken by the inspector
Scenario Inspector actions
The food has been seized and detained [SFCA, 25]
The food is under investigation and/or may demonstrate a regulatory violation, for example, the food is associated with an Inspector's Non-compliance Report that has or will be submitted to Enforcement and Investigation Services (EIS)
  • Consult Area EIS
The imported food has been ordered removed [SFCA, 32]
The food has in or on it any poisonous or harmful substance [FDA, 4(1)(a)]
  • Consider the limited disposition options which are available such as disposal or order to remove from Canada [SFCA 32].
  1. If disposition of the food is acceptable, consider the options that may be available, such as:
    • for use other than human consumption (for example, as waste, pet food or purposes other than for human food)
    • destruction to render the product unusable and un-salvageable (inedible)
    • order to remove the non-compliant imported product from Canada (SCFA 32)
    • exporting the product from Canada to a foreign market that will accept it
    • culling, processing, sorting or treating the product to correct a non-compliance
    • re-labelling to correct a non-compliance
  1. Review the proposed disposition method to verify that the specific considerations described in Table 2 will be met, where applicable.
Table 2: Specific considerations that must be met based on type of disposition
Examples of disposition Specific considerations
Re-packaging, relabelling, processing or treating the food to eliminate or reduce a hazard to an acceptable level
  • Licenced operators must have a Preventive Control Plan in place that addresses all hazards associated with this type of process or treatment (for products destined for interprovincial trade or export)
  • Control measures that have been shown by evidence to be effective must be used to address a microbiological, chemical or physical hazard (consult the Operational guideline: Inspection of evidence showing that control measures are effective, if applicable)
Culling to remove defective units and sorting to grade lots
  • Exporting the food from Canada
  • Or
  • Ordering the removal of the non-compliant imported food from Canada (SFCA 32)
Destruction or removal of the food from the human food chain
  • The location and method of disposal or destruction must not pose a risk of contamination to existing food, animal feed systems and current or future water and food sources (for example, comply with municipal bi-laws for waste disposal and regulations concerning animal feed)
  • If the method of disposal includes human uses other than human food (for example, to be made into cosmetics, therapeutic products, natural health products), the regulated party must be able to demonstrate, to the appropriate authority, its use is acceptable for that purpose
  • For interprovincial trade, export and import, use of the label "Not for use as Human Food" or "ne peut server à l'alimentation humaine" may also apply as per SFCR 23(1)(c)
  1. In addition to the specific considerations identified in step 3 (as applicable), the proposed disposition method must:

Refer to Appendix A for a detailed list of questions to consider when assessing if a disposition method intended to correct the food for future sale in Canada or export can be authorized (for example, culling, re-label, re-package, treat). Refer to Appendix B for a list of questions to consider when the disposition method will remove the food from human use in Canada (export of non-compliant food, order of removal, destruction and disposal).

If the food disposition method is appropriate and the proposal meets the general, legal and specific considerations identified above, the inspector may authorize the disposition and inform the regulated party of any conditions or CFIA oversight that may be needed during the disposition as described in section 6.2.

6.2 Monitoring the disposition

6.2.1 Authorizing the movement or alteration of a seized product

  1. If the food has been seized, consult the Operational Procedure: Procedure for seizure and detention, authorizing movement and disposition for the steps to allow the movement or alteration of the seized food. For example, authorization is required to allow the seized product to be:
    • transported to a specified location for correction or disposition (for example, landfill or destruction site)
    • transported to borders or to other means of transport for removal from Canada (for example, trucking to airport or marine container ship)
    • culled, re-labeled, processed or treated to bring it back into compliance

6.2.2 Witnessing the disposition

  1. If witnessing the disposition is required (for example products that are seized and detained, unlawful imports ordered removed or destroyed, recalls, or  non-compliance linked to a food safety issue or misrepresentation) verify that:
    • corrective measures are implemented as proposed
    • all known affected food available for disposition is corrected, destroyed, returned to origin or ordered removed from Canada
    • If witnessing the disposition is not required, request documents, pictures, records or other materials to verify and document proper disposition. For example, request a copy of new labels, formulation calculations, proof that the food was ordered removed from Canada, bills of lading, insurance claim and certificates of destructions as appropriate.
    • Examples of acceptable proof that the food was ordered removed from Canada include:
      • a copy of the official bill of lading or airway bill of lading showing quantity, destination and carriers
      • document stamped by the customs foreign authorities
      • notification from foreign country to which the product was returned
      • Form E15 (Certificate of Destruction/Exportation) with section 13-20 (except 19) being completed by the Canada Border Services Agency

Refer to the Operational Procedure: Ordering removal, or destruction of unlawful food imports for specific guidance on witnessing disposal, as applicable.

6.3 Documenting the disposition

6.3.1 Collecting information to document the disposition

  1. Collect a full description of the food being disposed, including:
    • the name of the food (company's internal product identification if applicable)
    • code identifiers including the specific lot code affected
    • package type and size
    • the quantity of food as noted in the Notice of Detention Form (CFIA/ACIA 3256), if applicable
    • inspection or Issues Management System (IMS) reference number
    • Harmonized System (HS) codes for imported food
  2. Collect additional details relevant to the method of disposition by considering the information included in Table 3.
Table 3: Additional information to document depending on method of disposition
Method of disposition Information to record
Destruction, culling, processing, treating, re-packaging or re-labelling the food
  • A detailed description of the disposition method
  • The person(s) who undertook the activity
  • The date and time the activity occurred
  • The location where the activity occurred
  • A description of the method of verification, including details such as:
    • if the disposition was witnessed on-site or not
    • the person(s) who witnessed the activity (if applicable)
    • other appropriate means of verification that assured the disposition activity occurred (for example, picture, written confirmation)
Exporting the food or removal from Canada

6.3.2 Recording the information in the relevant data capture system

Document the information concerning the disposition of the food based on the parameters in Table 4.

Table 4: Data capture system to use depending on how the non-compliant food was identified for disposition
How the non-compliant food was identified Data capture system guidance
The food being disposed was identified during a food safety investigation or recall
Food being disposed was not associated with a food safety investigation or recall
  • For inspections following Standard Inspection Process (SIP): Document the information concerning the disposition in the Inspection Verification Activities tab of the relevant follow-up inspection task in the Digital Service Delivery Platform
  • For inspection conducted following Compliance Verification System (CVS), follow the CVS Operational Procedure (OP), section 7.6.2 Follow-up on non-compliance identified on the Inspection Report – Corrective Action Request (IR-CAR)
  • Continue to 6.4

6.3.3 Additional guidance for documenting disposition of food identified during a food safety investigation or recall

When the food to be disposed was identified during a food safety investigation or recall, the following guidance should be applied when documenting the disposition in the IMS file:

6.4 Closing the disposition case

If the regulated party has adequately implemented a suitable disposition method for the specific situation, close the inspection case.

If a suitable disposition was not adequately implemented, consult the Standard regulatory response process and the Operational guideline: Food regulatory response guidelines to determine available product control options. Refer to SIP section A.5.5.2 Capture regulatory response actions and Digital Service Delivery Platform Standard Operating Procedure Managing a Non-Compliance (accessible only on the Government of Canada networks – RDIMS 9906406) to document these regulatory response actions.

7. Appendices

For general inquiries related to this Operational Guidance Document, please follow established communication channels, including submitting an electronic Request for Action Form (e-RAF).

Appendix A: Considerations when assessing the suitability of a food disposition method intended to correct non-compliance for future sale as human food in Canada or export

Appendix B: Considerations when assessing a disposition method intended to remove the food from human use in Canada (export of non-compliant food, destruction, disposal)

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